!שנה טובה – Wishing you all a Happy, CALM 5773!
I have not contributed a new post in awhile for a couple reasons. First, I’m less than two weeks from my move to Berlin, which is taking up a lot of time and stress. Secondly, the tone of the blog has changed due to the circumcision issues and the attack on the Berlin rabbi, and as an American Jew not living in Europe yet, I didn’t know quite what I could bring to the discussion.
The circumcision thing baffles me, because that’s something that would never pass in America. A greater percentage of American men, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, have the procedure when they’re born. It would be hard to determine the legality of something so much of the population has experienced without harmful effects. And, most importantly, laws that forbid parents to do something that has not been deemed medically-harmful by almost all respected medical professionals, would be seen as government-sponsored anti-religious incitement. At the very least, it’s the definition of the term “Nanny State,” which we Americans hate so much. However, in Europe, it seems laws like these are becoming more acceptable — my cousin lives in The Netherlands, where a bill criminalizing kosher/halal slaughter was just abandoned, but the fact it made it all the way to the legislature for a decision boggles my American mind.
Mendelssohn X wrote in his Rosh Hashanah blog post that it is not as safe to wear a kippah in Berlin as it is in New York. I am reminded of a conversation I overheard in Tel Aviv between a friend of mine from Ohio and a few Parisian Jews, all of us in our early Twenties at the time. My friend is a tall, athletic guy, who also happens to be modern orthodox and wears a kippah. The French were in awe of the fact that he wears his kippah outside in America. “Don’t people harass you?” they asked. “There are some morons out there, but you just have to tell them to go f*ck themselves,” the Midwesterner replied. The Parisians looked at him like he was Superman.
That being said, around the same time as the Berlin assault, a Michigan college student was attacked at a party, antisemitic slogans were hurled at him, and his mouth was literally stapled shut; the police refused to call it a hate crime. The synagogue/primary school in my neighborhood in Chicago was recently vandalized with threats and disturbing hate slogans. Most major synagogues and Jewish schools here invest a lot in security as a preventative measure. There have been attacks on Jewish centers, and of course, the LA Jewish school shooting in the 1990s. Attacks do happen in the United States, but perhaps when they occur, they are more shocking to the entire nation than when they occur in Europe.
I hope 5773 brings us more calm and reversal of bad decisions made in 5772. I want to leave on a happy note, so let’s talk about the Jewish obsession with parody videos. Every holiday has to come with at least five parody music videos, like toys in Happy Meals. I usually think they’re an embarrassing mess, but somehow when they’re in French, I find them adorable. Enjoy!